Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives

Tim Harford. Riverhead, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59463-479-6
Journalist Harford (The Undercover Economist) explores the counterintuitive theory that disorder is at the heart of innovation. His evidence includes the creative genius inspired by the randomness of record producer Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and the rich history of MIT’s hastily assembled Building 20. In the business world, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is extolled for the risk taking that carried the company through the dot-com bust. The book also examines what goes wrong in a system that is too organized. Examples include time-wasting email folders, misconceived methods for evaluating physicians’ competence, and the horrifying results of “the paradox of automation” when a pilot can’t remember how to respond in an emergency due to overreliance on automated operating systems. The book takes readers to some unexpected and entertaining places, including sarcastic corporate social-media accounts, chess strategy, and online-dating algorithms. Harford provides useful and specific instructions on putting his thesis to work, with tips on organizing projects, building an effective team, and honing improvisational skills. Weaving together lessons from history, art, technology, and social and scientific research, Harford’s theories have many potential benefits for individuals and businesses seeking to remain on the creative cutting edge, as well as profound implications for society. Agent: Zoë Pagnamenta, Zoë Pagnamenta Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2016
Release date: 10/04/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-0-698-40890-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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